I arrived in Cuenca, Ecuador a few days ago, having taken a bus from Quito. The journey was meant to take about 10 hours, but I arrived in Cuenca exhausted, 13 hours later.
The first bus broke down after 2-3 hours, and we ended up sitting beside the road for about an hour and a half waiting for a replacement. On the second bus I ended up in the seat at the back by the toilet, inhaling the acrid smell of piss.
There’s no doubt about it, this was a journey from hell. My first seating companion was a local woman with a baby that screamed hysterically non-stop for two hours. She tried to stop the baby screaming by shaking it, which of course had the opposite effect. She was replaced by a woman with her (approximately) 9 year old daughter sprawling on her lap, which ended up being on my lap too. The daughter then started vomiting in a bag, and continued vomiting for quite some time, whilst lying all over me.
We stopped for lunch at 3pm, I had got up shortly before 6am and missed breakfast, so I was starving. The man in the roadside restaurant had no change for my $5 note, so I was forced to skip lunch too.
I arrived in Quito 13 hours later, having eaten one bag of potato crisps all day, and then discovered the following morning that my small backpack, which had been carefully sandwiched between my legs for the whole journey, had a neat 15cm razor slash in it. My plastic wallet (hidden in a back compartment of the bag) containing $1300 in travellers cheques and $100 in cash was missing.
All I can think is that I fell asleep for a while, and the sprawling 9 year old took it. BUT I am totally amazed that anyone managed to enter my bag, with it sitting between my legs (whilst ignoring my laptop, two cameras and MP3 player) and go straight for the hidden compartment and extract the bag without me noticing.
The Police lady informed me that I am the 10th tourist in the last two months to have been robbed on the Quito – Cuenca bus, whether that’s cause for alarm or not I don’t know…?